”How Fast Was I Going?”

”How Fast Was I Going?”
Vol: 105 Issue: 18 Friday, June 18, 2010

From time to time, somebody will email to complain about my use of the King James Version of the Bible.   It almost always begins confrontationally, complete with accusations of “King James Onlyism” or “Biblolatry.”

I personally study the KJV. And I believe there are flaws in the other translations. But I don’t insist that all other versions are either worthless or Satanic.

You see, the reason that I believe there are flaws in the other translations is because guys who CAN read Greek, Latin and Coptic Egyptian compared all three and THEY said there were differences.

Things that are different are not the same, so, if there are differences, it is clear that there are flaws somewhere.

But since I can’t read Greek, Latin and Coptic, never translated the TR or the CV/CS, in the end, I am choosing the KJV as the superior text primarily on faith, am I not?

Where have I placed my faith? In God? Or is my faith in what one set of translators say, rather than that of another set of translators? Or faith in what one group of writers and thinkers say, rather than that of another group of writers and thinkers? And so on.

After all, if I am to charge out there and defend the King James Version of the Bible, I should be sure I am defending God’s Word, and not that I am defending what a group of 15th century translators said was God’s Word.

I have my reasons for being suspicious of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts, but when you get right down to it, I don’t know without first looking it up which modern translations are from CV/CS and which are not.

The inherent flaw in “King James Onlyism” is that it leads to “Bibliolatry” which is a form of idolatry in which one worships a Book more than its Author.   

The problem with dogmatically declaring the King James Version of the Bible as the superior translation is that my faith is placed in translators, intellectuals and scholars whom I’ve never met, instead of an all-powerful God that is as capable of ensuring the Bible I have is the Bible He wanted me to have as He was of inspiring those He used to write it.

I agree with the sentiment that “God only wrote one Bible” but it is equally true that He didn’t write it in English.   The debate soon shifts from faith in the translators to faith in the copyists that transcribed the Textus Receptus from which the KJV was translated.

The oldest complete existing copy of the Textus Receptus dates to about the 10th century AD.   

In 1845 an emissary of Fredrick, King of Saxony was visiting the Convent of St. Catharine in the Egyptian Sinai when he noticed some old looking documents stacked up as kindling for lighting the stove.

The emissary, Friedrich Tischendorff, examined one of the pages and recognized it as an ancient piece of the Bible written in Greek.

Tischendorf stunned the world when he unveiled his ‘Codex Sinaiticanus’ written in Greek and penned in the 4th century AD, making it the oldest known complete ‘autograph’ [hand-copied manuscript] of the Bible in existence.

Shortly thereafter, the Vatican discovered a similarly old manuscript that was dubbed the “Codex Vaticanus” written in Latin.   It was from these newly-discovered manuscripts that the NIV and a host of new Bible versions have been produced.

The immediate problem with the new translation is that the original Sinaticus/Vaticanus manuscripts are themselves translations of  translations.   It is fair to argue that things are often lost in translation, and that is where most of the debate is centered.

The battle between King James Onlyists and those who champion some other version of Scripture has always centered on which version is the most accurate.  

Let me say it up front.  I don’t know which version is the most accurate.  Some guys with lots of credentials say the King James is the most accurate.   Some guys with similarly long lists of credentials say it is a different version.

I have neither the credentials nor the knowledge necessary to refute either side’s conclusions as to which is the most accurate.

But that doesn’t mean the issue is irrelevant.

Assessment:

In their 1992 acceptance speeches for the Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton and Al Gore both tossed in a little Scripture to assure the voters that God was on the Democrat side.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things that we can build” was God’s message to Bill Clinton.  

Al Gore told his audience, “Scripture says, Do not lose heart.  This nation will be renewed.”   Clinton misquoted 1st Corinthians 2:9 replacing God’s promise with a promise from Bill Clinton.

When I was researching the story for a segment on “This Week In Bible Prophecy” I went through every Bible version I could find to figure out where Gore got his.

Al Gore just made his up entirely.  Nobody seemed to notice.  If anybody did notice, they probably assumed what I initially assumed.  That I didn’t recognize it because it was from another Bible version.

THAT is the real problem with having two dozen different Bibles.  Not that you or I have any way of knowing which one is the most accurate. 

The problem is not being able to tell if somebody is quoting Scripture or just making it up.  

I recently traded in my car for a newer one.  The newer one has a regular clockface speedometer and a digital speed readout displayed directly beside it where it is easier to read.  So it has two different speedometers. 

I also have one of those stick-to-your-windshield navigators.  One of the features on it is that it also displays your speed digitally, which gives me yet a third speedometer.  

The problem is, they don’t match.   When my navigator says I’m going sixty mph, my speedometer says I’m going sixty-five.   

So I’ve got three speedometers and I don’t know how fast I’m going.

The same problem exists with multiple versions of the Bible.  There are a dozen Bible versions and I have no way of knowing if the guy quoting Scripture is quoting it accurately.

I do not believe that the existence of so many different versions of the Bible is the result of a deliberate conspiracy by Satanists.  I believe that the majority, if not all the Bible translators must have been believers as well as serious scholars of Scripture. 

I believe that they believed that they were improving on the original product and that they had God’s blessing on their efforts.

However, I also believe in the Law of Unintended Consequences.  

The introduction of the Sinaticus and Vaticanus manuscripts and the so-called “Age of Enlightenment” followed parallel tracks.   The Age of Enlightenment is often referred to as the beginning of the “Age of Reason” or the “Age or Rationalism.” 

The Age of Enlightenment is credited by Church historians with the demise of the Philadelphian Church Era and the rise of the Church of Laodicea.  

History proves that to be a fair assessment.

While the translators and scholars may have intended only good things to come from their efforts, the effect is the same as having three different speedometers. 

My speedometers all agree that my car is in motion.  But the details about how fast are, at best, a little fuzzy.  Whether or not I get a ticket would depend on which speed the cop says I was going.  If I only had one speedometer reading, I might argue.  But with two, how can I be sure?  

I don’t worship the King James Version of the Bible.  But I study from it.  I teach from it. It is the only source I trust for doctrine.  I will from time to time use other versions to help clarify certain points, the same way I might use a Bible commentary.  

But when it comes to doctrinal truth, there can be only one standard authority.  For me, that is the King James Version.  How do I know that the Bible I am using is the most accurate? 

I don’t. 

I have a certain amount of faith in the scholars and theologians and translators that tell me it is the most accurate, but I have no way of knowing if they are right.

But I trust that the God that inspired the Bible is capable of preserving it the way He wants me to have it.   That’s why I use it. That’s why I teach from it. 

For the same reason I’m taking my car in to get the speedometer fixed.  Close is good enough, sometimes.   Sixty-five mph isn’t the same as sixty. And when you need to know the difference,  you need to know. 

Just ask a cop.

The Prince of Persia

The Prince of Persia
Vol: 105 Issue: 17 Thursday, June 17, 2010

When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2002 it did so with the support of NATO and most of the civilized world, including from the Russians.  

Despite the already-advanced onset of Bush Derangement Syndrome caused by Election 2000, the invasion of Afghanistan even had the support of a majority of Democrats. 

The Democrats even took to calling it a “righteous war” to contrast their opposition to the invasion of Iraq, known in liberal circles as “Bush’s War To Finish Off Saddam and Make His Daddy Proud of Him.”

A quick history lesson first so we’re all on the same page.  Osama bin Laden ordered the attack against the United States on September 11 from his base in Afghanistan.

The ruling Taliban refused to give him up. Pakistan backed the Taliban.  President Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to capture or kill bin-Laden, destroy al-Qaeda and punish the Taliban for their role by removing their regime.

Bush gave Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a choice between supporting the US or sharing the Taliban’s fate.  Pakistan is a nuclear state, a status that would justify the use of US nukes against it, should it come to total war.

Musharraf’s decision was probably responsible for the Afghan War recently passing Vietnam as the longest war in American history, tactically speaking.  The court of world opinion in October 2002 heavily favored America.

Had Musharraf dug in his heels and maintained Pakistan’s alliance with the Taliban, the US would have invaded both countries simultaneously, removing Pakistan as a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda to rearm and regroup in between battles.

Instead of invading Iraq in 2003 the US would probably have been forced to topple the Iranian regime next in order to remove Iran as the only remaining safe haven. Saddam’s Ba’athist regime and the Shi’ite Islamic regime in Iran were mortal enemies. 

Removing Iran would have made Saddam the Big Man in the Islamic world — he would have been delighted at the prospect.  

Had Musharraf decided differently, it is likely that Saddam would still be in power in Baghdad and the NATO War against the Persian Empire would either have ended with an international occupation force or a mushroom cloud, but it would be over by now.

Musharraf saved Pakistan and (inadvertently) Iran, leaving America fighting almost alone against a 6th century culture so fractious that it earned Afghanistan the historical nickname, “The Graveyard of Empires.”

Assessment:

From our historical vantage point on the Bible’s timeline, when we discuss the Gog-Magog War, we see it as a Russian-led alliance of Islamic states.  

Taking the longer view of history, what the Prophet Ezekiel forecast was an alliance between the Russians (Scythians) and a territory roughly corresponding (except that Ezekiel excludes Egypt) to the Persian Empire of antiquity, headed by modern-day Iran and including both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to Ezekiel, the invasion encounters no military opposition until it reaches the mountains of Israel.  Moreover, it manages to mobilize in sufficient secrecy as to alert neither the Israelis nor the rest of the world.

When the invasion force is discovered, Ezekiel describes what appears to be at most a mild diplomatic protest.

“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13)

The general working theory is that the motive for the Gog-Magog invasion is primarily financial.   Ezekiel uses the phrase “to take a great spoil” three time in two verses.   The word translated as “spoil” is shalal which means to ‘spoil utterly’ in the predatory sense.

So the announcement of the discovery of as much as $1.5 trillion in mineral wealth underneath the Graveyard of Empires seems to complicate things.   It seems to make Afghanistan a far more inviting target for invasion than Israel. 

But a decade in Afghanistan was enough for Moscow.  Two years after escaping Afghanistan, the Soviet Empire crumbled.  It seems unlikely that Putin would risk his resurging Russian Federation.  

Instead, Russia is waiting around to help pick up the pieces as an ally, rather than an occupier.  Let the Graveyard of Empires grind America to dust this time, instead. It’s a smart strategy.

The American Empire that entered the 21st century as the world’s sole remaining superpower at the peak of both her power and prestige find itself on the brink of collapse only a decade later.  

Having just been given his vision of the 70 Weeks, the Prophet Daniel said it disturbed him so much he spent the next twenty-one days in fasting and prayer before an angel came to him.

It’s a unique story.  The angel was almost apologetic, Daniel 10:12-13 records, explaining that Daniel’s prayer was heard from the first day and that he had been dispatched from Heaven on Daniel’s behalf.

“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.” 

So Daniel prayed for understanding of his vision for twenty-one days, but the Prince of Persia stood in the way.   But Michael, Israel’s guardian angel, came to his aid, and after a prolonged conflict, he was able to break away long enough to “make thee understand” the meaning of the prophecy.

The angel explains that after making clear the vision for Daniel, he has some unfinished business to attend to.

“Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.

But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.” (Daniel 10:21)

This passage always puzzled me.  Clearly, it has implications relevant to our time — it was in the context of explaining the last days.  

The Prince of Persia is obviously not a flesh-and-blood historical being — men and armies do not withstand angels.  And while the angel was otherwise occupied explaining the vision, Michael, (whom the angel identifies to Daniel as “your prince”) is carrying on the battle alone.

This passage is almost a metaphor for our time.  All the prophecies for the last days are there, but in a form that puts me in mind of a jigsaw puzzle.  Each piece isn’t obvious until the piece that it fits into is placed.

The Cold War Empires stood between Ezekiel’s vision and its fulfillment for most of the 20th century.  Gog-Magog is not a Russian empire. The Prince of Persia crushed the Russian Empire against the mountains of Afghanistan.

Ezekiel’s scenario makes no allowance for a Western superpower resembling the United States.  The US superpower that invaded Afghanistan in 2002 is but a shadow of its former self, its great empire in shambles after its encounter with the Prince of Persia.

And Daniel’s metaphor eventually has Michael (Israel) standing alone against the Prince of Persia while the other angel ministers to Daniel (the last-days Church) until ‘the time of the end’.

“And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?  And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”  (Daniel 12:8-9)

That is where we are now.  At the time of the end. 

“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:10)

Not everything is clear yet, but all the elements are in place.  Including, after some twenty-five hundred years, the sudden relevance of the Prince of Persia. 

“and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia. . . “

It can’t be coincidence.

Battle Plan

Battle Plan
Vol: 105 Issue: 16 Wednesday, June 16, 2010

“We will make BP pay,” the president told America during his first prime-time address since the Gulf Oil spill.    That is his “battle plan” — and if I understood it correctly, that is his only battle plan. 

Obama wasn’t even able to thrill MSNBC’s Chris Matthews this time around — (and if he’s lost Chris Matthews then the next ones to distance themselves from Obama are Michelle and the kids).

“I thought a couple of things were surprising to me. Why does he continue to say that the Secretary of Energy has a Nobel Prize? I mean, it`s almost gotten ludicrous. We had Carol Browner do it again tonight. I know I`ve mocked him for doing it, saying I`d barf if he did it one more time. But it`s not important. This meritocracy has gone too far. This, they’ve named the new guy here, the head of MMS. I`m not sure whether these degrees are going to help or these awards from overseas.”

The president decided to make his speech after having made his fourth visit to the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon crisis began.   The speech was heavily hyped by the White House as an “Oval Office speech” as if the setting would improve the contents.

But it didn’t.  Instead what he did was inadvertently expose the whole plan — because that is what I have come to believe is the case.

The spill was an accident — but everything the White House either did or failed to do after that was clearly calculated.  

The Deepwater Horizon blew up on April 20th.  Obama did not make a public statement on the spill until thirty-seven days later — and then, not until asked about it directly at a news conference he couldn’t avoid. 

It’s as if Obama had spent the thirty-seven days in silence while his political advisors figured out the best way to exploit the crisis to the administration’s advantage. 

It wasn’t until the failure of the ‘top kill’ method that Obama described as “as enraging as it was heartbreaking” that he even seemed aware of how serious the spill actually was. 

I say “seemed” because it is impossible to believe he didn’t know by then.  We did.  

On June 1st, Obama introduced “a national commission to examine the causes” of the oil spell.  The cause is pretty simple.  BP was drilling too far out to sea.  The reason is because they aren’t allowed to drill in shallower water closer to shore.

To this point, there is no national commission to STOP the oil spill — just the commission whose mandate is to find the administration blameless.

In his June 2nd speech in Pittsburgh, Obama’s management-by-crisis agenda began to emerge. 

Forty days after the oil began to pour into the Gulf, Obama began to press Congress to scrap billions in oil company tax breaks and pass legislation aimed at helping America “kick its dangerous fossil fuel addiction.”

Fifty days into the oil spill, Obama went on national television to defend his lack of concrete action, saying his focus was on trying to nail down “whose *** to kick.”

By last night the administration must have concluded that the spill is bad enough and America is angry enough to “green light” his energy agenda — which is to make fossil fuel so expensive that alternative fuel sources will seem cheap by comparison.

“Under my plan, energy prices will necessarily skyrocket,” he said during the campaign.

And last night was his prophecy fulfilled in our hearing.

“Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.” 

But by that statement, Obama didn’t mean that he was going to lift all the self-imposed barriers that caused us to lose control of our energy destiny in the first place. 

The oil crisis was just the thing he needed to replace “man-caused climate change” to revive the “green energy” movement.

“The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” he said.

“I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.”

“As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.”

It was almost as if I were watching a Saturday Night Live parody of an Obama speech.  (“Having dealt with the immediate crisis, I’d like to deal with the bigger issues. . .  Live from New York . . . .

Obama’s “immediate crisis” was not the oil still pouring into the Gulf.  His immediate crisis was finding a suitable crisis he could exploit to replace the Great Global Warming Hoax to drive the Left’s redistribution of wealth agenda.  Crisis solved.

One glaring question left unanswered by Obama and his handlers was about who is really in charge of the cleanup efforts. 

Most of America had supposed that two months into the disaster, all the relevant agencies at all levels of government had been organized into a massive, coordinated effort.  But what we learned from last night’s speech is that is what the administration is now advancing as part of a ‘battle plan.’   

Actually, the battle plan is well along the way.  Fixing the spill now would be a setback.

 Assessment:

There is no other logical way to interpret it.  Nobody is this incompetent. Even if President Obama was in a coma it would not explain it. 

From the day that the Deepwater Horizon exploded to this moment, the government has done exactly the wrong thing whenever there were two possible options.

Demonizing BP.  It seems impossible for me to believe that none of the geniuses surrounding the president told him that repeatedly demonizing BP and then threatening its assets would cause BP’s stock to tank.

If you had money in BP and you thought the oil spill would drive BP into bankruptcy, would you keep it in BP stock?  Or move it somewhere less risky?  

As president, if the goal is to make BP pay, is it not in the nation’s best interest to ensure that BP remains solvent?

BP is a major, publicly traded oil company.   What does that mean?  In the main, it means BP’s owners are its investors, primarily individual retirement accounts and pension funds.

If BP were to go belly-up, so will tens of thousands of pensioners, people saving for retirement and other investors.  BP is not a collection of ‘fat cats’ anymore than any other publicly traded company is. 

They may be run by ‘fat cats’ but it isn’t the ‘fat cats’ that will suffer if BP collapses. It’s the guy who puts in his forty hours a week now hoping he won’t have to learn how to make Alpo taste like beef stew after he retires. 

If the administration drives BP out of business, who is going to pay for the clean-up? 

Why Refuse International Aid?  There is nothing strategic in the Gulf Coast that would justify refusing international aid in both capping the spill and cleaning up the mess.

But not only has the government NOT mobilized its own national fleet of oil skimmers (there are thousands of such boats being held “in reserve” in ports around the country), it turned down offers for thousands more.

There is no explanation. 

Where Is The Task Force?  So far, the only task force that the administration has set up has been one aimed at containing the political damage to the administration.  And one charged with finding ways to exploit the crisis to advance the stalled energy agenda.

Why Ban Off Shore Drilling?  The only reason that the Deepwater Horizon spill is the catastrophe it has become is because BP was drilling for oil a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf.  

And the only reason that it was so far out to sea is because of a ban on off-shore drilling in safer, shallower waters.  Instead of banning deep-water drilling in favor of off-shore exploration, the administration is banning all exploration, idling 20,000 workers in the process.

Why So Little, So Late?  This is the hard question because, if one assumes that the administration cares more about its citizens than it does its political agenda, none of the answers make any sense. 

The ONLY logical reason for the administration’s totally counter-intuitive response is the one articulated by Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Obama continues to govern as if he didn’t have a care in the world, was still enjoying his 80% approval rating, there is no mid-term election looming and the worst thing facing the country is his inability to impose legislation despite voter opposition.

Since taking office, the only thing bi-partisan about the Obama agenda has been Congressional opposition to it. 

The only legislation that has passed has been passed so far has passed on a straight party-line vote.  Any legislation that failed to pass failed because Democrats joined Republicans in opposing it.

Obama and his handlers have to know that if the Democrats lose their Congressional majorities, his agenda is dead in the water and his next two years will be as a lame-duck.   And no lame-duck administration in history was ever granted a second term.

It sounds completely nuts.  Imagine it as a movie script.  

A guy nobody ever heard of and ALL of whose credentials have become a national secret, manages to get elected president.  

In two years, he triples the deficit,  raises the national debt to 90% of GDP, begins taxing companies out of business, demonizes capitalism,  embraces Marxism, alienates our allies, bows to our enemies,  abandons Israel and embraces Hamas. 

Every step of the way, when there are two options, the administration joyfully and enthusiastically supports the option that is most destructive to the national interest.

Nobody would buy a movie script with a plot that outlandish. 

So what is the game plan?  Increasingly, the game plan seems to be aimed at pushing the United States over the brink of bankruptcy and ultimately handing the country’s energy and foreign policies over to the United Nations.

Of all the various ‘plans’ cooked up by this administration, this one is the ONLY plan that actually seems to be following a script. 

A script that Obama seems to think will still be valid after November. Why is about the only thing about the whole Obama agenda that still seems unclear. NOBODY is that incompetent. 

What does he know that the rest of us don’t?

Withered on the Vine

Withered on the Vine
Vol: 105 Issue: 15 Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When we were in Israel, we toured Israel’s border with Syria near the Golan Heights.  Going up from the floor of the Galilee one can actually note the changes in elevation by the different crops planted at the various levels.

Thanks to Israel’s various elevations, one can experience almost every climate variation in the world, with everything from desert to tropical to temperate climates being within an hour’s drive of Jerusalem. 

Everything grows in Israel, from tropical date palms to northern apples.  But Israel is especially well-suited for olives, grapes and figs.  The Festival of the First Fruits (Shavuot) is a celebration of the harvest. 

Although everything grows there, the offerings of the first fruits (bikkurim) brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Shavuot were brought only from seven “species” of agricultural bounty.

The seven species of agricultural produce that symbolize the fertility of Israel celebrated at Shavuot are wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey (from dates).

Israel is often represented metaphorically in one of the seven species, most often as God’s ‘fig tree’ or with God as the husbandman and Israel as a vine or a vineyard.  

“For a nation is come up upon My land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.  He hath laid My vine waste, and barked My fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.  Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the Husband of her youth.”  (Joel 1:6-8)

“Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.” (Psalms 80:8)

The vine is a perfect metaphor in the sense that a vineyard requires constant care or the fruit will quickly degenerate.  After the rains, the round must be plowed and cleared of weeds. 

In the early spring the plants must be pruned by cutting off dead and fruitless branches.  The fruit itself must be protected from the foxes and the birds.  After the harvest, the gleanings are left for the poor to gather.

In the New Testament, the metaphor of the vine and the branches is extended to include the Church, symbolizing its relationship both to Christ and to Israel.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Assessment:

One of the passages offered recently as an objection to the doctrine of eternal security concerns what Jesus taught His disciples in the Upper Room shortly before His Crucifixion.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman.”  (John 15:1)

Jesus was born a Jew, lived a Jew and was crucified as King of the Jews. He is the True Vine.  The Church is the fruit of that Vine, dependent on God the way a vineyard requires constant care if it is to continue to bear fruit.

How does a Christian bear ‘fruit’? The purpose for a Christian’s life is summed up by the Great Commission.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)

Other than that, the Bible says that all our good works are as filthy rags before the Lord.  We tend to think we know the Mind of God but He says that we are totally clueless apart from that revealed to us.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)

According to the Bible, we are so limited in our understanding that we don’t even really know how to pray.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

But here’s what we do know how to do in order to bear fruit acceptable unto God.  Live the Great Commission. 

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

Continuing the theme of the vineyard and its need for constant tending, Jesus told His Disciples;

“Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)

This is where the doctrine of eternal security comes into question.  Jesus says a branch in Him that does not bear fruit “will be taken away” by the husbandman.  Does this mean that a saved Christian that does not bear fruit will lose his salvation?

That doesn’t line up with the Scriptures that say salvation is by grace through faith and not of works — ‘lest any man should boast’.   

So what does it mean when a Christian ‘withers on the vine?’  John does write in his first epistle of a ‘sin unto death’.

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16)

 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” (15:3-5)

Does this mean that once we are saved by grace, we maintain our salvation by our works?

The statement that ‘without Him we can do nothing’ is merely a restatement of the obvious. It means that the closer you are to Jesus, the more productive a branch you will be and the more fruit you will bear. 

It is the Vine that bears the grapes, not the other way around.  One is not saved by bearing fruit.  One bears fruit because one is saved.

“If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

This is the verse that seems to raise the most difficulty.  At first blush, it seems to suggest that if a man abides not in Christ, he loses his salvation and is cast into hell.  But that’s not what it says. 

Remember that Jesus is speaking metaphorically about vineyards and branches in the physical sense.  A branch withers and dies, men gather them together and dispose of them.

Physically, a person withers and dies, his body is gathered and disposed of by burial. When a Christian is fruitless in life, oftentimes the Lord uses his physical death to plant new seeds.

When Anaias and Sapphira lied to Peter (and by extension, to the Holy Ghost), they fell down dead at Peter’s feet.  They sold their land to help finance the Great Commission — to bear fruit for the Kingdom.  Then they tainted themselves and their offering.

They didn’t lose their salvation, but they had rendered themselves useless as branches on the vine. 

Since the only point to a Christian’s earthly life is to bear fruit, Anaias and Sapphira had more to offer the Church in terms of edification by falling over dead than they did in terms of helping to spread the Gospel.

“And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:14)

Everything we know about the Church, its purpose and its goal brings us to the same ultimate point.  Bearing fruit unto God.  The Church bears fruit unto God by saving the lost from hell by sharing the Gospel. 

The individual doesn’t bring glory to God by his own good works.  A person’s good works bring glory unto the person doing the good works. 

People didn’t go to a Billy Graham Crusade to hear the Word of God.  They went there because Billy Graham was preaching it.

When a Billy Graham Crusade resulted in a thousand professions for Christ, people didn’t say, “Wow! Look at God go!”

They said, “Wow!  Can Billy Graham ever preach!”  

The Lord used Billy Graham in an amazing, powerful way.  But in this life at least,  most of the glory is reserved for Billy Graham.  

It is no big deal for a professional baseball player to hit a home run off a 12 year-old kid.   But it is a very big deal for a 12 year-old kid to hit a home run pitched by a professional baseball player.

The Apostle Paul recounted the time he went to the Lord Jesus to ask Him to remove what he called a thorn in his flesh, a “messenger of Satan, sent to buffet me.”  Whatever that thorn was, Paul felt it interfered with his ability to minister effectively.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” (John 15:11)

Is this an admonition to keep the Ten Commandments in order to maintain one’s salvation?  Read it all — in context.

 “That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

“These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15:17)

A person is saved, first and foremost, by grace.  That is to say that God in His grace made a way for sinners to be reconciled to Him despite the fact that they are sinners by nature.

A person is saved by faith in God’s acceptance of the sacrificial Blood shed at the Cross and only that sacrifice is all sufficient.  That faith is ‘made perfect’ when it is realized at the Bema Seat.

Salvation cannot be a combination of grace and works because they are mutually exclusive.  If it is one, it cannot be the other.  And since I know my works as well as God does, my only hope lies with grace alone.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

Ezekiel’s Raiders

Ezekiel’s Raiders
Vol: 105 Issue: 14 Monday, June 14, 2010

A blockade is defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica  as “an act of war in which a belligerent prevents access to or departure from a defined part of an enemy coast.”

The Gaza blockade was imposed in 2007 by the Israeli government following the election of Hamas, a self-declared mortal enemy of Israel.  

The blockade was imposed to prevent Gaza from importing material that could be used as weapons against Israel. The blockade was not imposed until two years after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and turned it over to its citizens.

According to the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, a blockade is a legal method of warfare at sea, but is governed by rules. The blockading nation must publish a list of contraband. The manual describes what can never be contraband. Outside this list, the blockading nation is free to select anything as contraband.

The blockading nation typically establish a blockaded area of water, but any ship can be inspected as soon as it is established that it is attempting to break the blockade. This inspection can occur inside the blockaded area or in international waters, but never inside the territorial waters of a neutral nation. A neutral ship must obey a request to stop for inspection from the blockading nation.

If the situation so demands, the blockading nation can request that the ship divert to a known place or harbor for inspection. If the ship does not stop, then the ship is subject to capture. If people aboard the ship are resisting capture, they can be attacked.”

Whether or not a blockade is legal is generally determined, after the fact, by the winning side.  The other side always disagrees.  That’s why it is classified as an “act of war” in the first place.

Historically, however, the legal decisions are left until after the smoke has cleared.

  • From 1861 to 1865, the United States maintained a blockade of the Confederacy to prevent any supplies of any description from reaching ports friendly to the South.
  • In 1898 Puerto Rico was blockaded by the United States during the Spanish American War.   
  • The Ottoman Empire blockaded Lebanon during the First World War.
  • Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran in 1956 and again in 1967 during wars against Israel.
  • The US blockaded Cuba in 1962 as part of the Cold War’s Cuban Missile Crisis. 
  • India blockaded Pakistan in 1971 during the Bangladesh War.
  • Egypt blockaded Israel as part of its military efforts against Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
  • The US-led UN coalition maintained a blockade on Iraq from 1991 until the US invasion in 2003.
  • From 1993 to 1996, NATO maintained a blockade against Yugoslavia. 
  • And in 2007, Egypt and Israel imposed a joint blockade of Gaza after Gaza’s citizens elected Hamas as their government following what all sides agree was free and open democratic election.

Every one of the above blockades was legal under international law — including the one imposed on Gaza by Egypt.  Only Israel’s blockade is being questioned.

The oft-quoted Goldstone Report commissioned by the UN to document that alleged ‘human rights abuses’ against Israel during the 2008-2009 Gaza War noted specifically that Israel and Gaza are legally in a state of armed conflict.

On the basis of the Goldstone Report (even though it condemns Israel throughout while ignoring Hamas’ serial abuse of the laws of armed conflict), Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under all existing international treaty law.

Finally, the 1993 Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority makes Israel responsible for security along the Gaza coastline.   Israel is obligated to maintain the blockade by the Palestinian side! 

The Oslo agreement STIPULATES that Israel may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, or for any other illegal activity.

It was the Mavi Marmara raid sparked the international uproar.  The popular media narrative says that it was shipload of peace activists attempting to bring humanitarian aid directly to the besieged innocents in Gaza.

In reality, the Mavi Marmara was sponsored by the IHH a Turkish-based ‘charity’ with ties to al-Qaeda and Hamas. Before the flotilla even departed from Istanbul, IHH president Bulent Yildirim, made no secret of the goal of the operation.

Yildirim was quoted in Le Monde as saying that far from being a strictly humanitarian mission, it was a “political operation aimed at showing the brutality of the Zionist regime,” adding that he would be “happy if Israel used force.”

When finally inspected, the Mavi Marmara was found to be carrying only alleged “activists” and weapons like iron bars, chains, knives and several pistols, together with a large amount of cash.

No humanitarian aid of any description was found aboard that particular ship.  

This morning, the government of Iran announced that its own flotilla of ‘international aid’ left port enroute to Gaza. 

That the Gaza ‘relief flotilla’ is a set-up is obvious to pretty much everyone.  What is equally obvious (at least, to me) is that world’s great powers have decided it provides the perfect opportunity for a Final Solution to the Middle East conflict.

Eliminate Israel’s right to defend itself, and the ‘problem of the Jewish Question’ will solve itself over time.

So even the Obama administration is supporting demands for a UN inquiry into alleged Israeli (that’s right, Israeli!) human rights abuses aboard the Mavi Marmara.  The ultimate goal of any such investigative inquiry was the one articulated by the head if the IHH.

“A political operation aimed at showing the brutality of the Zionist regime.”

It wasn’t a humanitarian effort.  It was never intended to be.   And it takes willful ignorance to see it any other way.

In a related story, the London Sunday Times reported yesterday that the Saudi government had offered Israel an air-corridor through which to attack Iran.   The story was reported as breathlessly as if it were news.

It was not.  We reported that same story, also from the London Sunday Times, almost a year ago on July 6, 2009.  

On Sunday, the London Sunday Times reported that the Saudis have also given Israel the green light to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Times says that the Mossad assured Netanyahu that the Saudis would ignore Israeli overflights of their territory on the way to Iran.

The Times quoted a ‘diplomatic source’ who said, “The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia.”

The Saudis denied the reports, but former UN Ambassador John Bolton told the paper it was ‘entirely logical’ for the Saudis to let Israel use their airspace. (The Omega Letter, July 6, 2009)

This morning, the Saudis again denied the reports. It is important to keep in mind that the London Sunday Times isn’t exactly run by some pro-Jewish conspiracy lobby.   And this is the second time they’ve reported the same story.  Followed by the same Saudi denials.

In both cases, the Times’ sourced highly-placed Saudi defense officials as being behind the leak. If the Times’ isn’t making it up, then what does it mean?

The Times’ report came closely on the heels of the latest round of UN-imposed ‘sanctions’ dismissed by Tehran as being as ‘useful as a used tissue.’   Immediately afterwards came the second Saudi ‘leak’ appearing to encourage an Israeli airstrike against Iran.

To understand what is going on one need look at the developing alliance between Turkey and Iran that threatens the balance of power in the Middle East.  

The only thing the Saudis fear more than they feared a nuclear Saddam Hussein is a non-Arab Tehran/Istanbul alliance armed with nuclear weapons.

So the Saudis leaked the report a second time to the London Times, hoping that maybe the West might get the message.  The sanctions aren’t working.  They won’t work.  

The Israelis have an engraved invitation. So does Washington. 

Assessment:

Ezekiel’s invasion force is unique in that it consists entirely of non-Arab Islamic states.  Persia (Iran) Togarmah, Gomer (Turkey) Ethiopia and Libya (Islamic North Africa). Libya claims to be an ‘Arab’ state but it is ethnically Berber, as are the Tunisians and  Algerians.

The Berbers are descended from Europeans, Sub Saharan Africans and West Asians peoples.   Historically, they were the subjects of Arab persecution.

And it is significant that none of the Ishmaelite Arab states named as participants in the Psalms 83 War are also members of the Gog Alliance.

According to Ezekiel 38:13 when the Gog-Magog Alliance does launch its sneak invasion of Israel, the West offers what amounts to a weak diplomatic protest:

“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13)

Ezekiel places Sheba and Dedan outside the Gog-Magog alliance, including them with the “merchants of Tarshish and all the young lions thereof”. 

In Ezekiel’s day, the “merchants of Tarshish” hailed from the western edge of the known world.The peoples of “Sheba and Dedan” settled on the Saudi Arabian peninsula.

That puts Saudi Arabia, Israel and the West on one side — with Russia, Iran and Turkey on the other. 

The Bible forecasts two seemingly separate end-times wars aimed at Israel’s destruction. 

The first is the war forecast in Psalms 83.  This appears to be the same war foretold by Isaiah’s “Burden of Damascus” and by the Prophet Obadiah.  It involves the descendents of Esau — which would include all the Arab states surrounding Israel, but excluding the non-Arab Persians and Turks.

The second, the Gog Magog War, includes the Persians and Turks, excludes all the Arab states and specifically names Saudi Arabia as a non-belligerent ally of the West, if not an ally of Israel directly.

We tend to view the Gog Magog War and the Psalms 83 War as two distinct events separated by some significant period of time.   I believe that the Bible supports the conclusion that the two events are also separated by the Rapture.

The assumption of an interval between the two wars is necessary because the Gog Magog War takes place during a time of seeming peace and security within Israel. 

Obadiah’s (Psalms 83) war appears as a decisive battle in what is depicted as the 4,000 year old inter-generational conflict between the descendants of Esau and Jacob.  But the prophecies about the Psalms 83 War indicate that when it is over,  so is the Arab threat to Israel.

But what appears to be taking place is the development of both enemy alliances simultaneously — with those alliances developing in preparation for a united attack against Israel. 

It is always dangerous to interpret Bible prophecy in light of current events, rather than the other way around.   

Which is exactly what I am attempting here, so I want to add the disclaimer that I am speculating — I could be wrong and want to say so up front.

But there seems little doubt that Iran intends to push Israel over the brink and force a war that could well become nuclear.  (Israel has at least one nuclear-armed submarine cruising the Persian Gulf at this moment).

And an attack on Iran would certainly provoke a supporting military counter-strike from Hezbollah and Hamas. 

National Iran would probably survive intact, albeit seriously weakened from an all-out war with Israel. 

Neither the Bible nor Jane’s Defence Weekly would give the Arab Psalms 83 nations a snowball’s chance of surviving intact an all-out Israeli nuclear strike on their population centers.  

The Psalms 83 scenario leaves Israel with no enemies within immediate striking distance, permitting the existence of Israel as a land of unwalled villages living in apparent peace and safety.

And Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog alliance is able to launch a sneak attack against Israel without alerting the global satellite network.  That seems odd.   And Ezekiel makes little reference to anything resembling modern mechanized warfare.

Indeed, the picture as presented by the Prophet Ezekiel conjures up images of some post-nuclear Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome scenario (“all of them with shield and helmet”) whereas Isaiah’s sounds more like a modern lightning war.

I’m admittedly out on a limb, but I don’t think that what is shaping up is the complete fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision. 

But it may be the explanation why, when the Gog Magog does make its prophesied move, Ezekiel’s Raiders are all riding horses.  

Special Report: Rapture Immanency

Special Report: Rapture Immanency
Vol: 105 Issue: 12 Saturday, June 12, 2010

The sermon known as the Olivet Discourse was given by Jesus from the Mount of Olives during the final week of His life on this earth.  He had just finished condemning the religious leaders of His day from the floor of the Temple for corrupting the Law of Moses.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers (tombs) which indeed appear beautiful outside, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.”  (Matthew 23:27)

Matthew writes that when Jesus left the Temple, His disciples followed after “to show Him the buildings of the Temple.”

After having stood in the Temple itself to condemn its leaders for corruption, the disciples were no doubt imploring Him to reconsider, reminding Him how important the Temple was.

“And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  (Matthew 24:2)

Keep the context in mind here.  Jesus has just now predicted the destruction of the Temple.  

“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

This verse is usually where students of Bible prophecy commence their study of the Olivet Discourse. . .  “What shall be the sign of Thy coming? . . . and then we’re off to the races.

Let’s stop there and take a look at the time frames involved.  Jesus has yet to be sacrificed.  The Temple economy is in full operation.  There is no Church, no Gospel message . . . not even His Disciples really believed in Him.  (Peter later denied Him three times.)

Later that week, Jesus is crucified, dies and is Resurrected.  Jesus remained with them for forty days after His Resurrection. (Acts 1:3) Even after His Resurrection, they remained clueless.

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)   

After His ascension, the Comforter came at Pentecost. For the next forty years, the Church and the Temple stood together before its prophesied destruction in AD 70. 

It is during those forty years that the Gospel accounts were published and the early Church grew in spite of persecution by both the Romans and the Jewish authorities.

But while the Church was persecuted and hunted, Temple worship continued unabated.  The Book of Acts is filled with accounts of the persecution of the Apostles at the hands of the religious authorities.  Jerusalem remained the seat of Jewish religious authority. 

And for the next forty years at Passover, the Temple was crammed with pilgrims, until Titus destroyed it, brick by brick.

 Assessment:

It is a more or less commonly-accepted belief that because the Church Age comes to a close with the Rapture that the Tribulation Period immediately follows.  

But that is really an assumption that has no Scriptural support. The Doctrine of Immanency says the Rapture is a secret, signless event. 

The signs of the approaching Tribulation merely confirm the lateness of the hour.  The Rapture could have happened long ago and the Tribulation still be future.  

The Church Age began at Pentecost but Temple worship continued another forty years.  That’s not to say that there is necessarily a forty-year interval between the Rapture and the Tribulation, but it does lend support to there being some interval period between the Rapture and the Tribulation Period.

If there is anything in Scripture that directly links the Rapture to the Tribulation, I am unable to find it.  Paul writes that before “that Wicked” can be revealed, there must first come a great falling away, or a great apostasy.

Secondarily, Paul writes, the Holy Spirit must be ‘taken out of the way.’   But nowhere does it say that the Antichrist appears the next day.  It says only that “He Who now letteth will let until He be taken out of the way.”

(The ASV translates the KJV’s “let” as“restrain” — the Greek word is katcheco — which literally means, “to hold fast” or “to possess.”  The Old English rendering ‘to let’ is in the same sense as having a room ‘to let’ or ‘to occupy’. )

Paul writes that the antichrist takes his seat in the Temple of God.  The Temple of God was destroyed by Titus and the Romans 40 years after the arrival of the Restrainer. 

The Prophet Daniel predicted that a prince of the people that would come to destroy the city and the sanctuary (Daniel 9:27) would confirm a covenant with ‘the many’ for one week.

(The people were the Romans under Titus. The coming ‘prince’ will therefore arise from some revived form of the Roman Empire.) 

Daniel’s prophesided “week” is a week of years (shabua) and represents the seventieth of Daniel’s 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24).  

Paul describes the Temple desecrated by the antichrist as “the Temple of God.”  That requires the existence of a consecrated Temple on Temple Mount in Jerusalem as part of the overall covenant the antichrist breaks 3 1/2 years later by abolishing Temple worship.

Scripturally speaking, there is no more time-sensitivity between the Rapture of the Church and the Tribulation then there is between the ascension (or Rapture) of Jesus and the Destruction of the Temple forty years later. 

Scripturally speaking, there could be several years or — even decades — between the Rapture of the Church and the ultimate rise of the antichrist. 

In fact, it almost seems that some interval will be necessary for the world to reorganize and regroup after the sudden and unexplained disappearance of millions.  

We often think of the Rapture this way.   Suddenly, millions of people disappear.  An hour later, the antichrist confirms a peace treaty with Israel and the clock starts ticking down the final seven years.

Another view has millions of people suddenly disappearing after the antichrist has confirmed the covenant, after a quarter of the earth’s population have perished as a result of the other three horsemen of Revelation, (Famine, War, and Death) at the onset of the 3 ½ year Great Tribulation.

This destroys the doctrine of immanency and links the Rapture to the ‘blood moon’ of Revelation 6:12.

Neither view makes allowances for any interval between the removal of the Church (and Restrainer) and the onset of the Tribulation Period.  

But the Thessalonians feared they had missed the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him and that the Day of Christ was at hand. (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-2)

(Note that Paul speaks of “our gathering together unto Him” and the “Day of Christ” as two separate events.)

The Rapture could take place tomorrow and the Tribulation could start the next day.  But there is no Scripture to support that supposition. 

It is equally possible that the Rapture could take place tomorrow and it could take another twenty years before the world is sufficiently deluded to accept the antichrist.

What seems less possible is that the Rapture could take place tomorrow and that the antichrist could accomplish all that is prophesied within the next three and a half years, or even the next seven years.

But the Bible says that those living when all the signs of His return begin to come to pass, we are to look up, and lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near. (Luke 21:28)

But the Bible also says that the Lord will wait until the last possible moment to Rapture His Church for the sake of that last repentant sinner.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9)

We watch the signs of the times because they are evidence that the Bible is true, that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled in this generation and therefore, there is no time to waste.  

If we can see the signs of the coming Tribulation, and there is an interval in between, then it means that the Rapture is even closer. 

And once we’re gone, there’s no second chance for those who are left behind.

The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within
Vol: 105 Issue: 11 Friday, June 11, 2010

It was a year ago this week that Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with 68% of the popular vote in an election where most voters voted against him.

The election fraud was so massive and so overt that the country exploded into spontaneous demonstrations.  For a week or so, it looked like the Iranian democratic movement might actually topple Iran’s Islamic Republic.

For the entire week, Barack Obama kept mum.   The movement’s leaders begged for some encouragement and support from the White House.   News analysts and counter-intelligence officials wondered aloud about Obama’s silence.

When Obama finally broke his silence to condemn the Iranian government’s reaction to the demonstrations, his criticism was tempered by his reference to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “President” Ahmadinejad and to Ayatollah Ali Khameni as “Supreme Leader.”

The demonstrators heard what they needed to hear. Obama recognized Ahamadinejad’s presidency as legitimate while acknowledging Khameni as Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’.

Since the catalyst for the revolt was Khameni’s legitimization of Ahmadinejad’s election, Obama’s ‘condemnation’ cut the legs out from under the revolution.  And of course, the rest, as they say, is history.

The government crackdown included tactics like sending undercover agents armed with straight razors out into the crowd, slashing at demonstrators from motorbikes.  A video surfaced in which a young woman demonstrator was shot in the chest by a Basiji militiaman.  She died on camera.

When asked if he had seen the viral video featuring an alleged Basiji militiaman shooting a young protestor known as Neda in the chest, the President confirmed that he had.

“It’s heartbreaking, and I think anybody who sees it knows there is something fundamentally unjust about that.”

Really?  The President of the United States detects “something” about the murder of a young woman in the streets by the Iranian military that is “fundamentally unjust”? What an astonishing insight!  That’s it? Well. . . yeah.  You were expecting more?

Obama did not venture to make any comment for a whole week — until domestic political pressure forced his hand.   When he did, he said he didn’t want to ‘interfere’.

“The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That is precisely what has happened these last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice.”

However, it appeared that no iron fist was necessary.   The world bore witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice.  It bore witness to justice denied.  It bore witness to the execution of dissident leaders Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.

According to Iranian officials, over 40 people have died in demonstrations since the election, which were violently repressed by the security forces. Amnesty International believes the number to be much higher.

More than 5,000 people have been arrested, many of whom were tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
Scores have been sentenced to prison terms, and in some cases flogging, after unfair trials, and at least 11 have been sentenced to death. 

Despite that, Obama reiterated his willingness to establish diplomatic relations with Iran.

“There is a path available to Iran in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which they are part of a larger community that has responsibilities.”

And that, as they say, was that.  Next crisis, please.

Assessment:

That was last June.  In July, one of President Obama’s friends,  Professor Henry Gates, was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass.  Gates is the head of Harvard’s African-American Studies program.

Gates had returned home from a trip overseas. His front door was jammed and so he had his driver help him push it open. A neighbor called in a possible burglary.  Gates so harangued the responding police officer that he got himself arrested for disorderly conduct.

The officer, James Crowley, was a state-certified race-relations instructor with an impeccable record.  But that didn’t stop Obama from responding (in less than 24 hours). 

After first admitting he didn’t have the details, Obama went on to pronounce judgment, saying the “Cambridge police acted stupidly” — immediately assuming the arrest was racially-motivated.

“What I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” Obama said. “That’s just a fact.”

(It is also ‘just a fact’ that the while African-Americans and Latinos are 29% of the general population, they account for 60% of the prison population. But that didn’t stop the president from assuming white cops are automatically racists.)

When the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for President Manuel Zelaya, Obama immediately stepped up to defend Zelaya, calling the move an ‘illegal coup’.

Zelaya had attempted to hold an unconstitutional referendum that would have allowed him to run for a second term. The Honduran constitution states that any president who attempts to extend his term limit shall be removed from office immediately. 

Instead of supporting the government, Obama imposed sanctions, announcing the suspension of visas to Hondurans.  (Except Zelaya who was allowed to travel to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Clinton.)

When the “Deepwater Horizon” exploded in the Gulf,  the Obama administration said nothing for six weeks.  When he finally got engaged, his first reaction was to impose a moratorium on off-shore drilling.  His second reaction was to blame George W. Bush.

But Obama was in front of the podium less than 24 hours after Israel’s confrontation with the Turkish-backed  ‘peace flotilla’ attempting to run Israel’s military quarantine of Gaza.  The Mavi Marmara met the Israeli boarding party with iron bars, firebombs, knives and pistols. 

Nine “peace activists” were killed. The Israeli navy released video of the attack and audio of the conversation with the Mavi Marmara.  Including audio from the ship telling the Israelis to “go back to Auschwitz” and “We’re helping Arabs go against the US — don’t forget 9/11 guys.”

Within hours, and without having any details, Obama immediately condemned Israel. 

Interviews with the detained passengers of the Mavi Marmara are now confirming that the violence met by the Israeli commandos as they boarded the ship was not spontaneous. It was premeditated. The “peace activists” were members of IHH — an Islamic ‘charity’ with ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda.

We have since learned that the Mavi Marmara was NOT carrying any humanitarian supplies. Just terrorists, useful idiots, weapons and large sums of money.  

The captain of the Mavi Marmara, Mehmet Tubal, said while being investigated in Israel that he and other members of the Mavi Marmara’s staff did all they could to prevent the activists from confronting soldiers, even throwing some of the IHH member’s metal pipes and chains overboard.

Despite that, the Obama administration continues to blame Israel and to court Turkey and Iran.  So, too does the EU, UN, the Russians, the Chinese and pretty much everybody else on earth.  

(As an aside, I noticed that Google is suddenly redirecting traffic away from the Jerusalem Post, claiming the web page is ‘unsafe’. Both my browsers crashed when I tried to proceed past the cyber-blockade anyway.)

The UN Security Council issued an immediate condemnation of Israel.  The UN Human Rights Council demanded an ‘investigation’.   The Obama administration immediately endorsed the idea.

Two-thirds of Americans from across the political spectrum support both Israel and Israel’s right to exist.  It is increasingly clear that the President of the United States is not among them. 

Indeed, it grows increasingly clear that the President of the United States is not among us. 

He didn’t want to rush to judgment over Iranian excesses. But he prejudge white American cops as ‘stupid’ and automatic racists.

He leapt to the defense of Honduran president Zelaya’s effort to violate Honduras’ Constitution, condemning the entire Honduran government and judiciary in the process.  

He defended Turkey’s effort to run Israel’s blockade, while condemning Israel for responding to what was clearly an ambush by forces connected with Islamic terrorism.

America’s foreign policy is in shambles.  America’s willingness to stand by its stated convictions has become an international joke.  The administration is embracing all the wrong parties and endorsing all the worst possible alternatives, from America’s perspective.

It is almost as if it were on purpose.   Or maybe even more than ‘almost’.  Who is really in the White House?

It gets scarier by the day.

Heaven’s Bookkeeper

Heaven’s Bookkeeper
Vol: 105 Issue: 10 Thursday, June 10, 2010

One of the questions prompted by yesterday’s Omega Letter, “Questions That Are Harder Than the Answers” had to do with having one’s name blotted out of the Book of Life.   

Specifically, the question was in reference to Revelation 3:5:

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.”

The Book of Life is but one of the books maintained in Heaven that is opened at the Great White Throne, bearing the record of our sojourn upon this earth. 

Understand that the Great White Throne Judgment is not a New Testament doctrine — it is a universal doctrine. The Prophet Daniel described it in his vision exactly as the Apostle John described the same scene 700 years later.

“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” (Daniel 7:9-10)

Compare Daniel’s vision to John’s.

“And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20:11-12)

Notice that both Daniel and John refer to “the books” — plural.   The best-known of the books is the Book of Life — but there are others.  But if your name isn’t in the Book of Life, then the rest of them don’t matter.

“And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

The Book of Life is the ticket into heaven. Anyone whose name is not in there will join the antichrist and false prophet in the Lake of Fire.

What are the other books?  There is the Book of Tears.

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?”

The Book of Tears records our pain and disappointments and sadness — Who we trusted and how we dealt with the trials and tribulations of this life.

“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. . . . For Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” (Psalms 56:10-11,13)

God also keeps a Book of Remembrance:

“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His Name. And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Malachi 3:16-17)

The Book of Remembrances is where God records that which sometimes man forgets. The Scriptures promise that:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

My Dad fought in every theater of battle during WWII.   Dad wasn’t a religious man, but I cling to the hope that at some point during one of those battles he cried out to Jesus for salvation and that his plea was recorded in the Book of Remembrance.

Perhaps I may yet see him at the Bema Seat.

Assessment:

To recap, there is the Book of Life, the Book of Tears, the Book of Remembrance, and finally, the Book of Births.

“Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy Book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalms 139:16)

The Scriptures say that our names were recorded in all these books ‘before the foundation of the world’.

“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:” (Ephesians 1:4)

“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Revelation 17:8)

God foreordained my birth and my name was therefore recorded in the Book of Births before the foundation of the world. The Book of Tears contains the record of my trials and tribulations and disappointments.

My name was recorded in the Book of Life as well, even before I came to Christ. And my plea for salvation was recorded in the Book of Remembrance.

Now to the specific question dealing with the Book of Life.   Revelation 3:5 says that he that overcomes will be clothed in white rainment and that Jesus will not blot his name out of the Book of Life. 

Does that mean that a saved person’s name can be blotted out if they fail to ‘overcome’?   How does a saved person “overcome” the world? 

Answer:  He can’t. He couldn’t if he wanted to.  And he doesn’t have to.  If a person could overcome the world, then why would we need a Savior?

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Babies who die as babies go to heaven, so their names must also be recorded in the Book of Life. Paul writes to the Romans:

“I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9)

Your name remains in the Book of Life as long as you are alive.  If your sin isn’t covered by the Blood of Christ by the time you leave this earth, then your name is blotted out of the Book of Life. 

But it is still recorded in the Book of Births, the Book of Tears and especially in the Book of Remembrances.

So the records of your birth, your trials and tribulations and those things God remembers but you forgot will all be opened —  and you will give an account for what is recorded against you.  

But if your name is blotted out of the Book of Life, it means you were convicted in absentia — the Great White Throne Judgment is, in reality a sentencing hearing.  

Nobody that appears before the Great White Throne will have their names recorded in the Book of Life.

The Bible calls the Great White Throne judgment the ‘second death’.   So in summary, Bible outlines four different books in which our names are recorded and against which we are judged, either at the Bema Seat or the Great White Throne.

The books record our births and our trials in this life. We are judged according to what is written in those books, and we are saved according to what is written in the other two.

God records the day we called out to Him in His Book of Remembrance or He blots our name from the Book of Life if we fail to do so in this life. If our names are still recorded in the Book of Life then we will appear before Christ at the Bema Seat for the believer’s judgment.

We will still be judged based on what is written in those books, but our judgment is to determine our rewards rather than our punishment.

Stop with me here for one second. Note again the criteria for appearing before the Bema Seat. Those who stand before it trusted Jesus rather than themselves. The small and great in Christ will all be there.

Some will receive great rewards, others will receive no reward whatever apart from being permitted entry into the Kingdom. But they will be permitted into heaven.

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:15)

Then there is the Great White Throne. Those who appear before it will be judged for all their works, but they will be sentenced based on just one criteria. Where their name should appear in the Book of Life — there is an ink blot.

Salvation isn’t difficult. It is what God created us for. Every person who ever lived is (or was once) recorded in all four books. 

If it were left up to the individual Christian to overcome the world, the Book of Life would only have One Name in it. So be of good cheer.  He has overcome the world.   And if you trust in Him, you have, too. 

The question that prompted today’s OL seems complicated, but it is really pretty simple.  How does one overcome the world and keep one’s name in the Book of Life?  

 “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5)

Trust Jesus and do your best.  He knows the difference. He keeps the Books.  And He promises that when you trust in Him, your name is recorded using indelible ink.  

You can’t fool the Bookkeeper.  And neither can the Enemy.  The best that he can do is to try and fool you.

That’s why there is a fifth heavenly Book. But this one is written to us, rather than about us.  That’s where all the answers are. 

That’s why God gave us the Bible.  Because it is foolproof.

Questions That Are Harder Than the Answers:

Questions That Are Harder Than the Answers:
Vol: 105 Issue: 9 Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One of the most prevalent characteristics of Scripture is its simplicity.  Indeed, it is addressed to ‘the simple’.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalms 19:7)

“The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.” (Psalms 116:6)

“When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.” (Proverbs 21:11)

“Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him.” (Proverbs 9:16)

Yet there are entire libraries filled with complicated volumes explaining the simplicity of the Scriptures. For every Scriptural doctrine there is somebody who has a revised doctrine they’ve managed to glean from the Scriptures that nobody else ever found.  

Usually it is something that tends to complicate something that would be otherwise pretty simple.  The doctrine of eternal security is a good example.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:5)  

That is about as simple as it gets.  The statement asks and answers all the questions necessary: 

Q. How are we saved? A. By Grace.  Q. How do we receive grace? A. By faith.  Q. Where does it come from?  A. From God.  Q. What role do I play?  A.  I receive the gift.

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

This is also pretty simple. If I am saved by grace and works, then grace isn’t grace anymore.  It is grace plus works — which nullifies both.  If works count, then grace doesn’t.

It cannot count.  Grace comes from God.  Works come from you. Are you judged according to your worthiness?  Or Christ’s?  How can anybody be judged according to both?  

“Well, Jesus was good enough. . . but you weren’t. . . .”    

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)

So simple a caveman could understand it.  It is of “faith that by grace the promise might be sure” because if one relies on the combination of faith in God’s grace and faith in one’s own works, the promise is not sure. 

Conversely, if I am relying on the combination of my faith in God’s grace coupled with my own works, it is now up to me to judge whether I am good enough to go to heaven.  (Or whether someone else is.)

“Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?”  (1st Corinthians 10:29-30)

But if it is so simple, then why is eternal security derided as OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved)?  I don’t know, to tell you the truth.  I’ve heard a lot of arguments but none that don’t redefine the entire concept of grace in the process.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Assessment:

As a question, Hebrews 6:4-6 is a hard one — it says that if somebody is saved and then falls away, they have lost their salvation.  Doesn’t it?  

Well, it does when judged against Paul’s standard that either grace nullifies works or works nullifies grace.

It is impossible to renew someone to repentance because the Blood of Christ is sufficient payment for ALL sin.  If it were not, then Christ would have to be crucified again and again, exposing Him to “an open shame” before His enemy.

Can that mean that a person who was saved and then fell away could never come back? He is lost forever and without hope, no matter how much he later begs for forgiveness? 

That all depends on how one defines the word impossible.  If you define it as meaning “maybe” then Hebrews 6:4-6 contradicts eternal security.

If you define it as meaning impossible then it can only mean that it is impossible to lose one’s salvation by one’s own works, since it would expose Christ to ridicule before the enemy He claimed to have defeated.

As a question, the Book of James seems kind of difficult. James writes;

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. . .” (James 2:18)

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19)

“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)

This may sound scandalous to some, but hang on.  All of the Bible is written for us, but not all of it was written to us.  That is part of the whole process of ‘rightly dividing’ the Word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Old Testament was written for all mankind, but written directly to the Jews.  There are doctrines in the Old Testament that do not apply to Christians.

The New Testament is a collection of 27 letters, or books, divided according to their intended audiences. 

The four Gospels speak of it in the future tense, but during the Gospel period, there was no Church, no Christians and no Great Commission.   

The second division is the Book of Acts.  During this time, the New Testament Church was born, people began to get saved, the Gospel began to be preached, churches started to spring up.

After the churches are established come the Epistles (letters) to the various churches of the Gentile world.   The Pauline Epistles are written to the Gentiles unfamiliar with the Law of Moses. 

The books of Peter, Hebrews, James and Jude are primarily addressed to converted Jews that are already steeped in the Mosaic Law.  The Mosiac Law emphasized works. 

The Gospels make reference to flight on the Sabbath Day — but the Sabbath Day restrictions apply to Jews, not the Church.   Peter makes reference the Mosaic Law on unclean animals. (Acts 11:8)

James is addressing grace versus works to people steeped from birth in the traditions of the Mosiac Law. James wasn’t equating works with salvation, he was equating works with fruit.   

Abraham was justified by the ‘work’ of believing God, not sacrificing Isaac. His faith was ‘made perfect’ by God’s grace in providing an alternative sacrifice. 

Rahab was justified by faith that if she helped the spies they would spare her.  By her works, the Israelites were saved from defeat at Jericho.  Her faith was ‘made perfect’ when the Israelites kept their promise.

We are saved by our faith that the Blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse us from all sin and that He has already kept His Promise.

“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” -(James 2:22)

James doesn’t equate works with salvation, he equates it with faith.   I’m assuming we’re all Christians here.  I’m also assuming we’ve had similar experiences.  (Assuming can be problematic, but I’m taking a long chance.)

Is your faith sometimes stronger than it is other times?  I admit that mine is.  There are moments when I’m ready to charge hell with a bucket of ice water and times when I wonder how a dirtbag like me could ever be saved.  

Think about it.  Do you ever find your faith wavering, even for a few moments?  Think about the circumstances when it does. 

I bet you will find some relationship between how strong your faith is and what ‘works’ you happen to be engaging in at the time.    

Salvation and faith are not the same.   We are sometimes more faithful than other times, but there is no time when we are more or less saved. 

We tend to view our lives in the moment — we view where we are at that moment as determining where we stand with God.  To some degree, that is true, since all any of us has is this moment.

But while we see our lives in momentary slices, God exists outside of time and space. We can only see to the next horizon, God looks down at us in our totality.  God either sees the Shed Blood of Christ or He does not.

Our faith is demonstrated by our works, and our works play an important role in how faithful we are, but salvation comes by grace through faith [and that not of yourselves, lest any man should boast.] (Ephesians 2:8-9)

There are those who say that the doctrine of eternal security is a license to sin.  The fact is that man doesn’t need a license to sin.  Sin is what man does.

The most simple theme of Scripture, the one for which there is the least objection, is the theme that man is incapable of living a sinless life on his own. 

Man is incapable of good works.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

“They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12)

As Christians, we are enjoined to live a Christ-like life because we are saved, not in order to become saved or in order to remain saved.

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”

Don’t let the enemy steal your victory. You are worthy to carry the banner because He has made you worthy. 

Is your faith weak?  Go out there and get into the fight. 

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)

Maranatha!

Eternity Is a Long, Long, Time

Eternity Is a Long, Long, Time
Vol: 105 Issue: 8 Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eternity is one of those things that must be, but still, it sits just outside our capacity to imagine it. 

Eternity is a long time, but ‘eternity’ is ‘a long time’ the way a billion dollars is ‘a lot of money’. It takes a carefully constructed word picture to bring it into focus.

I heard ‘eternity’ described this way, once, and it helped. Suppose a seagull were to take a grain of sand from the East Coast and drop it off on the West Coast. Every ten thousand years, our seagull would transport another grain of sand from the East Coast to the West Coast.

When every grain of sand on every beach on the entire East Coast has been transferred to the West Coast (one grain at a time, every thousand years), that would constitute the first ten seconds of eternity!

Mankind is created in God’s Image, according to Genesis 1:26, and after God’s likeness. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that we look like God, or that God looks like us.

Jesus revealed, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

God’s ‘image’ and His ‘likeness’ refer to His eternal nature, not His cosmetic appearance.

Monkeys look as much like men as any of the other lower order of animals. They look enough like men to argue that, if man is in God’s image, then so are some species of monkeys.

Connecting the dots, then, Jesus tells us that God is a Spirit, and Genesis tells us that we were created in God’s Image and in His Likeness.

Scripture teaches that man was created with an eternal spiritual component.

A Spirit, in His Image, that is eternal in nature, in His Likeness.

That which is eternal is that which, by definition, cannot die, and cannot be killed. But it can be destroyed.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Note the subtle shift in Our Lord’s Words when He moves from the temporal to the eternal. The body can die, the soul cannot be killed, but both can be ‘destroyed’ in hell.

There are those who teach that this means that hell isn’t a place of eternal torment, but rather a place where the condemned soul is annihilated.

The Bible speaks as much of hell as it does of Heaven; indeed, in His ministry, the Lord spoke MORE of hell than he did of heaven. Scripture divides ‘hell’ — as we understand it — into two phases.

There is hell, and then, later on, the Lake of Fire.

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)

It is the ‘Lake of Fire’ that some teach is the place of annihilation. The Scriptures teach otherwise.

We are created with an eternal element, as we’ve already established. That which is eternal cannot be killed, but it can be ‘destroyed’. But ‘destruction’ means eternal separation from God, not annihilation.

Jesus explained in the story of Lazarus and the rich man;

“There WAS a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. . . .”

Both of them died, the Lord explains, and each went to his place, Lazarus to Paradise, and the rich man to hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:19-20-23)

At the time of the story, Jesus had not yet redeemed humanity, and the righteous dead went to Paradise, which, the Lord taught, was separated from hell by a great gulf or chasm;

“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26)

At His Death, Jesus ‘descended into hell’ [which also included at that time, Paradise] in order to liberate the righteous dead and take them to heaven;

“Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:8-10)

Once the righteous dead were taken to heaven, hell was expanded to make room. Those in hell will be ‘cast into the Lake of Fire’ at the second death, the Scriptures say.

There are those who will point out that the word ‘hell’ (sheol) has two meanings; it means both ‘the grave’ and the place where departed spirits go. So they argue that hell is not really a literal Bible teaching.

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” (2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9)

Note the phrase ‘everlasting destruction’ and reconcile that, if you can, with the idea of ‘annihilation’. It takes some real imaginative interpretation to get there from here.

‘Everlasting destruction’ isn’t the same as ‘annihilation’ — which is instantaneous and permanent. And things that are different are NOT the same.

Hell is a place of punishment that the Lord described THREE times, using exactly the same words;

“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44,46,48)

When the Lord chooses to repeat Himself, it is because He wants to make sure we get it right.

Jesus said the rich man was ‘in torments’, desiring that Lazarus “dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:23)

So, from our Lord’s Lips to our ears, we know it is a place of torment, involving ‘flames’ where ‘their worm dieth not’. Jude 13 reveals it is a place of eternal darkness.

While those in heaven will meet and recognize their loved ones, those in hell will spend eternity like the unidentified rich man, nameless, alone and in utter darkness.

The story of the rich man reveals hell to be a place of consciousness, a place of eternal remorse, a place without hope, a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a place of eternal flame.

Jesus says of the hellbound sinner that it would be “better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

Jesus said of Judas that “woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)

Hell is worse than violent death and worse than having ever been born at all. Jesus’ words make no sense if Judas were facing ‘annihilation’ in hell. How could NOT existing (annihilation) be worse than never existing?

On the other hand, eternal torment would be MUCH worse than never having existed at all. The difference is obvious without having to conduct any special Scriptural gymnastics to prove it.

And if the plain sense of Scripture makes perfect sense on its face, why seek a different sense?

Hell is given over to the Lake of Fire at the second death at the conclusion of the thousand year Millennial Kingdom Age. The beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the Lake of Fire, where, Revelation 20:10 says that “they shall be “tormented day and night for ever and ever’ — not annihilated.

Eternal life and eternal death are two sides of the same coin in that they are BOTH eternal, since we are created in God’s Image, which is eternal Spirit.

It is often argued that, ‘a loving God wouldn’t send people to hell’ — and that argument sounds logical because it is true. A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell — and He doesn’t.

A loving God would provide an escape from eternal condemnation, which is different than expecting Him to change the nature of the punishment.

Hell was created as a prison and place of punishment for the rebellious angels. When man joined in the rebellion, he condemned himself to share their prison.

But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Heaven doesn’t require cream cheese to make it heaven, and there are no red union suits in hell. Both are real and both are eternal because we are eternal and, as eternal beings, we have to continue our existence somewhere.

God prepared a place for those who love Him and who want to spend eternity with Him. And He created a place for those who reject Him and rebel against His rule.

And He gave us a free choice to decide which we would prefer.

We are the watchmen on the wall. For those of us that know the truth, that is an awesome thing to contemplate. It rekindles a sense of urgency for the lost.

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

The Omega Letter’s mission is to prepare the saved for the work of the ministry by comparing the Scriptures to the signs of the times and providing evidence of the lateness of the hour and the soon coming of the Lord.

Our secondary mission is to examine the deeper truths of Scripture so that we are better prepared to answer the skeptic’s questions and make clear the choices that are set before him.

It is incumbent upon us to be prepared, “and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

May God continue to sustain and provide for us as we continue in our mission.

Until He comes.